He woke in a cold sweat, shivering in a delayed reaction to his near death. He couldn’t breathe, just like the nights he’d told her about. That sinking feeling of confusion he’d experienced when he read the crude sign left by the man Hetty had raised, still remained. “The path to paradise begins in hell.” Who believes that? But that’s where the man had left him. In hell, with a hoarder’s gift of explosives and a ticking clock.
Panting in the darkness of his own bed, he couldn’t shake the residual feeling of helplessness and frustration and fear that had almost overwhelmed him in those first few seconds after the door clicked closed behind him. The remainder of his life… their life… had come down to just fifteen minutes. How could that be? Fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes left of a life together, one so full of promise. Kensi was paradise for him, and he’d been trapped in a man-made hell, unable to reach her, to tell her what being with her meant to him. He had wasted some of those precious minutes desperately trying to save himself, giving him so little time to simply be with her… to touch her… to appreciate the tears she cried for him. The memories closed in on him, and he reached out for her in the darkness, seeking that feeling of peace that always calmed his soul and kept him sane.
The bed was cold and he panicked, throwing off the covers and grabbing the clock. It was two fifteen in the morning, and she wasn’t here. He grabbed his weapon from the bedside table and bolted out of the room. He paused to listen at the top of the stairs, prepared for anything after today. Then he heard her. She was crying, and it crushed his heart. He padded down the stairs and left his gun on the dining room table. Not wanting to startle her, he walked into the living room slowly, waiting for her to realize he was there. She was curled up in the overstuffed chair, her knees pulled up to her chest, and her arms tightly wrapped around them. Her long dark hair was loose, cascading around her so he couldn’t see her face.
“Kens?” He whispered.
Her head jerked up, and she hurried to wipe the tears from her cheeks. “I didn’t want to wake you.”
“Hey, Baby, I’m here now,” he said as he knelt in front of her, running his hands up her arms. “Talk to me.”
She took hold of his forearms as she had when they’d held onto each other through the broken window. Brushing his hair back, she touched his cheek, still unable to speak. She had been so strong and so positive when she’d rigged the door to the car, shouting out things in a rush he thought he’d never hear her say.
“I thought you might be down here researching vans,” he said, grinning softly at her. “Or alternative lifestyles for the soon to be unemployed. Maybe how to make berry jam for us to sell at the farmers’ market.”
“You know I can’t cook,” she said, snorting out a laugh.
“Rethinking some of those ideas you were throwing out?” he asked, suddenly saddened by his own words.
“Not all of them,” she said.
“So we aren’t tendering our resignations today?” he said. “Or planning to live in a van down by the river?”
Tears filled her eyes once again. “I thought it was the end Deeks. I was going crazy… crazy to think that I could pull that door off its hinges… crazy that I could save you… save our life together. But I had to try, Baby. I wasn’t going to let some madman take that life away from us.”
“There’s my competitive wifey,” he said, his smile fading when she wouldn’t look at him.
“I lived… and things are back to normal,” he said. “So just to clarify. Kens. You only said those things because you thought I was going to die?”
When she didn’t say anything, it shook him, and he stood up and walked into the middle of the room. In her rush to save him, she’d told him everything he’d always wanted to hear. Maybe not the part about collecting berries or living in a van, but the idea that they could do something that didn’t involve being shot at every day or locked in a room with fifteen minutes to live. She’d blithely thrown out the possibility of kids, and he had clung to that in those final moments of promise.
“I guess you could just teach me French instead of…” he let the remainder of that comment trail off.
“I don’t think you’re very good at languages, Deeks, so let’s just pass on that,” she said as she came around to face him. “And I don’t think homeschooling is for us. I think it’s healthy for kids to learn to get along with lots of other kids from different backgrounds and countries, don’t you? But I will teach them French, and maybe Portuguese. I’ve always loved the sound of Portuguese.”
“If you’re saying what I think you’re saying,” he said. “Then why were you crying?”
“Because this time scared me, Deeks,” she said. “Even more than Mexico. I could do something to save you in Mexico.”
“You did save me in Mexico,” he said pulling her close.
“I had hope in Mexico, but not today, baby. Not today,” she said, tears filling her eyes. “I hated seeing you trapped like that, Deeks… with no hope.”
“But you didn’t let that stop you, Kens,” he said. “You were awesome. You drove through fire and saved me. And I didn’t even get singed. Just peed my pants a little.”
She laughed and kissed him. “Me too.”
“That part about making babies was for real, right? We’re making babies? Kens?”
“Maybe not right this minute, but…”
“Why not? Today I found out just how long a minute can be,” he said. “So I’m pretty sure we can make a baby in fifteen of those minutes.”
“I guess if they’re going to be ninja assassins, they should probably start out with a bang, so to speak.”
“Good one, Kens,” he said with a quick grin. “Listen, I know I’ve always said that… but I don’t want our kids to be ninja assassins. Hetty raised ninja assassins, and look what happened.”
“We’re not Hetty, Deeks,” she said. “Our kids…”
“We’re making multiple babies?”
She put a finger over his lips to silence him. “For the sake of this conversation, let’s say one kid.”
“I can live with that.”
“Our kid will be intelligent. Kind. Funny… silly even… like you,” she said, snuggling into his chest. “I just want a normal, healthy kid, Deeks. Preferably one who looks like you.”
“Or you. Girl? Boy?” He asked as he moved her toward the couch.
“I don’t really care.”
“Me either,” he said as he pulled her down on the couch beside him. “So… we’re trading in the van… forgoing foraging for berries. No homeschooling, except for teaching them French and Portuguese, and just having fun making babies after work.”
“That pretty much sums it up.”
“Sounds like paradise to me.”